The persecution complex has always been a part of Armstrongism as it has with fundamentalists for decades,particularly here in the United States. Ever since my mother joined the church in the late 50's it was all I heard for the next 40 some years. It continues on to this day in almost every single one of the splinter groups. False prophet Thiel and false apostle Malm both shout this from the moutnain tops.
Because the Church of God was so unique it was constantly being persecuted throughout the ages. First it was the Romans, then the Catholics and then the Protestants. It was and is still easy to find the boogeyman to scare people with.
In the 1960's in the Church the book, Foxes Book of Martyrs was widely read and preached from. Every church library and most members had the book. It was required reading for the youth in my church area. The stories described in it were things that we might ultimately face for not keeping birthdays or Christmas.
Then there was the absurd silliness from Rod Meredith about invading German armies that were going to imprison the nation and hang people on meat hooks to torture them. Who can forget the windbag Gerald Waterhouse and his incredibly stupid 4 hour sermons on torture, martyrdom and persecution.
Sermons were preached, booklets written, articles were in the Plain Truth, Good News and Tomorrows World telling about the upcoming persecution. It was a great scare tactic to keep the members under control and fearful. Being fearful of losing ones salvation had a stranglehold over the church and was a great weapon of intimidation.
Here is an article that will make you think twice about many of the beliefs were brainwashed with. While I may not agree with everything in the article it certainly brings up a lot of good points to consider. I also agree that there was intense persecution at time of Christians and many were certainly killed. The stories of the Lombard's and Waldenses in the Piedmont regions of Europe are legendary, even though none of these people were ever Church of God members or remnants of the "truth once delivered."
Here is book to shake up some of that persecution complex:
For Christians, the crucifixion is the event that changed everything. Prior to the death of Jesus and the emergence of Christianity most ancient people interpreted oppression, persecution, and violence as a sign that their deity was either irate or impotent. The crucifixion forced Jesus’s followers to rethink this paradigm. The death of their leader was reshaped as triumph and the experience of persecution became a sign of elevated moral status, a badge of honor. The genius of the Jesus movement was its ability to disassociate earthly pain from divine punishment. As a result Christians identified themselves as innocent victims; they associated their sufferings with those of Jesus and aligned the source of those sufferings with the forces that killed Jesus. From the very beginning, victimhood was hardwired into the Christian psyche.
With the exception of the Great Persecution of Diocletian (AD 303-305), when Christians were indeed actively persecuted, it is difficult to find any examples of Roman emperors behaving as Christians typically portrayed them. Apart from this comparatively brief period, and an even briefer one during the reign of Valerian in 257-58, Roman emperors never targeted Christians for attack. At the beginning of the second century, the emperor Trajan actually stipulated that Christians were not to be sought out. Roman emperors simply don’t appear to have been that interested in Christians. For most of the first three centuries of their existence Christians flourished: they held lofty political positions, and were so comfortable under the Romans that they even constructed a prominent church across the road from the imperial palace in Nicomedia.
Given that the Roman evidence for persecution is so thin, the origin of our misunderstandings about the early church must, and does, lie with the early Christians themselves. There are literally thousands of stories of Christians martyrs being brutally tortured and killed, but the overwhelming majority of these were written long after the events they claim to describe. Who is responsible for these misunderstandings about history? And why did they alter the historical record? One of the reasons is the explosion of the cult of the saints, the passion for collecting and displaying holy relics, in the fifth century and beyond. Everyone wanted a piece of the action and innumerable stories about martyrs were fabricated to support local churches and to attract pilgrims to particular towns.